Home March 2019 The Hidden Gem

The Hidden Gem

Gem Cabinets has quietly but steadily made an impression for over 40 years

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Gem Cabinets, a locally owned and operated family business, has been making homes beautiful with custom cabinetry for over 40 years.

Don Woods founded Gem Cabinets in 1977 with a staff of three and big dreams for the future. Fast forward to today and the company operates out of two locations with a team of 160. Gem offers a full range of installed custom and semi-custom cabinets in various styles (rustic, traditional, old world, urban, contemporary, etc.), providing options for every taste and budget. The company also offers HOMEpro cabinets, which are stocked products, ready for pick up for those that want a stylish, cost-efficient, DIY option. The impressive range of top Canadian manufacturers and suppliers sees Gem as the in-demand cabinet maker and installer for kitchens, bathrooms, mud rooms, laundry rooms, home theatres and bars, built-ins, wine rooms and so much more.

Growth has been organic thanks to Gem’s reputation within the new home builders’ market and excellent customer referrals.

“Gem Cabinets has doubled in growth every 12 years,” says Jeff Schoenroth, CEO. “We have recently exceeded sales of $50 million. Even during economic downturns when sales are stagnant, Gem Cabinets has grown in market share.”

This growth is a point of pride for the company, as Gem has always eschewed more common routes to rapid success (massive ad campaigns and inexpensive product imports). Instead, the company has focused, from day one, on only sourcing Canadian-made products, providing outstanding customer service and creating a welcoming environment for its staff. With those building blocks in place, the craftsmanship of Gem’s tradespeople really shines through, and for decades has quietly but firmly entrenched the company as a dominant force and leader in the industry.

“We are a family business with integrity, values, morals, and faith,” confirms Schoenroth. “Our founder is a strong Christian man. Treating staff like family is important to him. One of his sayings is ‘treat everyone how you’d like to be treated’ and he carries that through in all of his interactions with customers, employees and members of the community. That’s how he lives. We, the management team, have the same beliefs. We are compassionate. We know the names of our team members’ families. We celebrate birthdays. We operate as a large family.”

Bob Moon, vice president, sales & marketing, adds “If it wasn’t for our staff, we wouldn’t be successful. We have dedicated, hardworking people.”

Their Canadian manufacturers and suppliers, such as Montalco and Urban Effects who are Gem’s long-term partners, are another point of pride for the company. Gem Cabinets is very firm about supporting Canadian producers and showcasing the beauty, quality, style and longevity of products available within our borders.

One such manufacturer is Cabico®, a leading North American high-end cabinet maker. Although Gem Cabinets has operated out of (and expanded within) the same location since 1977, the company invested in a separate Cabico Boutique just a few steps away to give the brand its own, very much deserved, spotlight. The Cabico Boutique has been open for nearly two years.
“We searched for five years to find a Canadian high-end brand that could compete with international labels,” says Moon of the Cabico Boutique. “Cabico fills a void in the market and gives home builders and homeowners an upscale but local option.”

With the organic growth of this humble company, many are unaware of Gem Cabinet’s true impact. It could very well be likened to…well…a hidden gem!

“We provide full service,” divulges Schoenroth. “That means we design, measure, install and service. We do have HOMEpro for the staunch DIYers, but the majority of what we do is full service. This provides the longevity, quality, and look that homeowners and builders want, along with the customization to personalize the cabinetry for each home.

“Gem also operates a large in-house shop and a three-bay spray booth, allowing us to quickly manufacture customizations and repairs on site. The shop allows us to fill orders and complete service requests quickly for the customer.”

Gem is proud to remain independent.

“Without a corporate office directing us, we can continue to operate by leading with our core values,” Schoenroth continues. “Being independently owned and operated means we are very nimble and fluid. We change as the market changes and are flexible enough to meet trends and customer demands. Our independence also gives us the opportunity to fully engage in the community on our own terms and build long lasting relationships in and beyond the city.”
“There is,” Moon points out, “a slight downside to being autonomous. The fact is, although we have over 40 years in the business and continued growth due to referrals and reputation, we will never be a big box store name. When a homeowner is building or doing a renovation, they may not necessarily think, ‘Gem Cabinets.’ We have always heavily invested in quality and customer service rather than expensive marketing. We have never used Google ads. But,” he smiles, “maybe its time to look into that.” The company does, after all, move with the times.

Avoiding huge ad rollouts has not hurt Gem Cabinet’s reputation. As Moon points out, Gem is widely recognized as a local leader when they attend industry functions. It’s not the recognition the management team seeks, however. The success of Gem allows the company to do something that is very important to its management team and founder, Don Woods – giving back.

“If a builder is doing a lottery home for the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, we provide a substantial reduction on the cabinetry,” says Moon. Without fanfare, Gem has quietly helped many lottery homes around the city with custom cabinetry. “We are involved in many mainstream charities, and numerous other non-mainstream charities.” Gem is determined to help those in need by donating time, money, and manpower to causes big and small in the Capital Region.

“We were very fortunate to be involved with the Carter Work Project for Habitat for Humanity,” says Moon of the initiative that sees President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter doing builds around the world with Habitat for Humanity. When the Carter Work Project came to Edmonton, Gem Cabinets joined in and sent 25 people to site. “It was a great experience for everyone involved,” smiles Moon.
Gem Cabinets also supports The Salvation Army®, Hope Mission, the Great Commission Foundation, Power to Change, The Mustard Seed, Young Life of Canada, OneBook, JDRF, Kids with Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, Edmonton Food Bank, and many more.

After 40 years of constant growth, gaining market share and giving back to the community, the management team reflects on how it all began.

“Establishing Gem Cabinets in Edmonton was a choice,” muses Schoenroth. “Woods had the opportunity to represent a cabinetmaker from Toronto and the vision to see there was void in the Edmonton market here in 1977. Choosing Edmonton over a larger city was a very big deal and risky venture at that time.”

Since the 70s, Woods, then later Schoenroth and Moon, have seen many style changes and trends.

“Currently the look is clean, sleek, crisp lines,” informs Moon. “Young buyers don’t want their ‘parent’s kitchen.’ If it remotely looks like their parent’s kitchen, they are running for the hills!”

“We are also seeing a lot of combination textures and paint with an accent colour, like white with walnut or hickory with grey. White paired with a dark complementary wood island is very popular. Black is also well-liked as an accent and as a full workup.”
When a customer goes against trend and wants something unique like a vintage kitchen or special project, Gem Cabinets is more than happy to put its creativity and innovation to work. This complete offering of services from start to finish has earned the company excellent third-party reviews.

“The reviews are a nice way to measure the business, but we always think we can do better,” says Schoenroth. “That’s part of being a leader. We don’t sit back and rest on our laurels. We have great processes, but there is always room to improve.”

For the management team, the validation of 40 years in business is not measured based on sales, but on their longstanding relationships with partners, builders, staff and clients. In many cases, those relationships span more than 25 years.

“To do business with the second and third generation of our builder partners and clients is incredibly rewarding,” says Moon. “We value partnerships over recognition. To us, it is a much stronger indicator of success.”

Schoenroth and Moon extend heartfelt thanks to past and present staff. “We are grateful to everyone in the organization,” they say. “Our staff are our extended family. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the people that work here. We sell melamine, paint and wood; what makes us stand out is our staff.”

They also thank former and current customers, saying, “Our biggest asset is a satisfied customer.”

The next 40 years will see more of the same commitment to Canadian brands, innovation, creativity and dedication to customer service that has grown Gem Cabinets for the past 40 years.

“We will focus on continuing to be a trusted partner of our staff, vendors, suppliers and customers, and remain committed to our core business value, which is building relationships,” Schoenroth and Moon conclude. “From vendors to clients to our team, we take ownership of everything we do. Gem Cabinets establishes trust and we don’t let our people, builders, or customers down. Nobody can compete with our programs and services. Better price? Maybe; but for long-term, high quality, Canadian cabinet solutions, we have the depth and strength builders and homeowners need.”

Learn more about Gem Cabinets online at
@GemKitchenCabinets on Facebook, @GemCabinets on Twitter and @gem_cabinets on Instagram

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